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CDC says avoid travel to New Zealand, Hong Kong and Thailand as covid cases surge

Cases are soaring again, despite the destinations’ strict travel restrictions

Auckland, New Zealand. (iStock/Washington Post illustration)
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Three destinations — including two that had kept the coronavirus at bay for most of the pandemic — moved into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s highest warning level for travel on Monday.

Americans should avoid traveling to New Zealand, Hong Kong and Thailand because of very high levels of covid-19, the public health agency said in an update that placed the destinations into the “Level 4” category. All three had most recently been categorized as “Level 3,” with high levels of the virus.

New Zealand and Hong Kong have both kept strict travel restrictions in place throughout the pandemic, even as other popular destinations have reopened to the world with vaccination and testing rules. But new cases in both countries are soaring, despite their largely remaining off limits to foreign travelers.

On Tuesday, New Zealand reported nearly 24,000 new cases, while Thailand reported nearly 19,000, according to the Bangkok Post. Under a new self-reporting system, Hong Kong had 43,000 new cases Tuesday, Reuters said.

The CDC's do not travel list, explained

Thailand relaunched its quarantine-free “Test & Go” program for fully vaccinated visitors on Feb. 1. The other destinations have made smaller steps toward reopening. In late January, authorities in Hong Kong announced a slight easing of quarantine requirements from 21 to 14 days. New Zealand has said it plans to lift all restrictions gradually by October, starting late last month with citizens, residents and some visa holders.

The CDC factors in the trajectory and number of new cases over the past 28 days to determine travel health advisories. Large destinations classified as “Level 4” have an incidence rate of more than 500 new cases per 100,000 people over the past 28 days. More than 130 destinations have a Level 4 designation.

Also Monday, a handful of destinations dropped from the highest level to “Level 3,” which means people should be fully vaccinated before visiting. Those include Mexico, Anguilla, Fiji, the Philippines, Cape Verde and the United Arab Emirates.